Tuesday, June 06, 2006
Deadbeat Club

Tonight's our now-monthly workshop at the Co-op. I'm debating whether or not I should go. Actually, I tell a lie -- I'll go either way. I suppose what I'm really debating is my reason for going. Back when the workshop was a weekly event, it was reasonable to decide not to go if the subject was something I wasn't that interested in (as it is tonight), but now that it happens only once a month, I feel obligated to attend without fail, regardless of whether there's anything in it for me. Mostly because it's the only time I get to see a significant number of my friends.

Scaling the workshop back to a monthly thing was the only way to go, of course -- it just wasn't sustainable on a weekly schedule anymore. And now that it happens less often, attendance is much better -- presumably for the same reason I mentioned above. The downside is that nobody takes it very seriously anymore, and often the subject matter seems like an afterthought. The topics that used to be reserved for throwaway workshops are now the most frequent topics. Tonight, a group of local filmmakers will be talking about their film -- blah, blah, blah, as if I care. And I know that's horribly unsupportive of me. I know that if I ever want people to take an interest in my work, I should take an interest in other people's work. And socially, I wouldn't be averse to a friendly conversation, a casual exchange of ideas and experiences.

But a workshop? Ugh.

The thing is, I'm past this now -- I already know most of what another struggling local auteur could feasibly teach me. What I really need is exposure to the practices of someone who knows a hell of a lot more than I do, but there are few of those people around. This is one of those bizarre artforms where people are largely expected to acquire knowledge without the help of teachers or mentors. There are film schools, but I've taken about as much from that approach as I can already. And to some extent you can independently learn by doing, but as with any other skill set, in doing so you risk adopting as many bad habits as acquiring good ones. The Co-op was devised as an idealistic effort to provide a kind of mutual mentorship for everyone working in film in Memphis, but it predictably turned into a tiny group of people who knew a little about filmmaking mentoring many people who knew nothing at all. The downward pressure meant that most of those moderately-skilled filmmakers were spending all their energy without getting much in return. It couldn't last.

So now the Co-op exists primarily as an equipment house and meeting space, and the relationships between filmmakers has become much more distant. It's still the one place, though, where I know I can expect to see many of them, so I go for that reason alone. It's a social club now, and not much more.

Sometimes I want to start a support group for artists. Rather than start another filmmaking group, though, I think I'd try to arrange things so that every member was primarily engaged in a different artform -- one filmmaker, one writer, one musician, one visual artist, one actor, one photographer, one CG artist, etc. I think that would be a much more productive arrangement. We could meet twice a month in some comfortable bar on neutral territory and proceed without an agenda, away from our usual artistic associates, and just talk. We'd (hopefully) lose some of the ego factor -- since nobody's playing with anybody else's toys, none of us would need to feel threatened by anyone else's success, and we'd all get the benefit of exposure to other ways of creating. And it might go some way to break up some of these medium-specific enclaves that form in every local arts community. I need a lot more non-filmmaker friends, and I don't understand why I have so few of them. Every great art movement was centered on people who sat in bars and talked, and the fact that I find myself doing that so rarely makes me worry that I'm never going to be part of any great art movement.

So, anybody want to join my little fantasy club?

Update: I just had a terrible realization.

I went to the workshop tonight, and it was okay, I guess -- the people who were talking were respectable, and I expect their film will be pretty good. But about twenty minutes in it just dawned on me that I was wasting my time by being there. I saw a lot of people I knew, but almost none of the people I was looking for; and on top of that, I wasn't particularly receptive to what was being said. I'm just in a different headspace right now.

On the way home, I was ruminating on the absence of any of my old Co-op friends, and that's when I realized: my old gang has broken up, and as always I'm the last to figure it out. I always realize about a year too late. So at exactly the point when I should really be going out, looking for a new gang, I'm still trying to hold some semblance of the old one together. And obviously that never works.

So now I'm sitting here thinking, where the hell am I going to find a new gang?
1:34 PM ::
Amy :: permalink
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